The flooding in Houston due to Hurricane Harvey will “lead to a fire or explosion within the next six days,” according to the CEO of Arkema. The company’s chemical plant in Crosby produces organic peroxides for plastic and rubber producers, but the refrigeration at the plant has failed due to flooding. As a result, volatile chemicals are beginning to degrade at an alarming rate.
Organic peroxides require refrigeration in order to prevent them from exploding. CEO Richard Rowe added that there’s no way to prevent an explosion or a fire at the plan, he warned residents in Crosby yesterday. He said, “At this time, while we do not believe there is any imminent danger, the potential for a chemical reaction leading to a fire and/or explosion within the site confines is real.”
“We believe that any sustained environmental impact should be minimal,” he added in a conference call today.
Shortly after the warning, residents who lived with a mile and a half of the Arkema plant were evacuated by Harris County firefighters. Facility managers are in touch with both Harris County officials and the Department of Homeland Security as they remotely monitor the temperature of the chemical facility.
Before the evacuation, plant workers attempted to move the organic peroxides into refrigerated containers powered by emergency generators. However, the flooding exceeded the capacity of the secondary generators, and workers abandoned the plant.
One of the Most Potentially Dangerous Sites in Houston
In 2016, Arkema’s Crosby plant was analyzed in a report from Texas A&M University. It was revealed to be among the sites with the highest potential for harm in the Houston area, were an incident to occur. Sam Mannan of the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center at Texas A&M noted that it would be surprising if the company had not considered a situation like this before.
Companies that produce organic peroxides can normally douse volatile chemicals with another chemical to render it inert—which raises the question of whether Arkema had the ability to prevent this issue earlier, had they been willing to sacrifice their inventory of organic peroxides.
To learn more about Hurricane Harvey and related insurance claims, visit www.hurricaneharveyfirm.com.